this morning my friend jamie emailed me this article. soon after, my co-worker jason passed along another article and asked me how i feel about this development. and i’ve been thinking about that all day.
i love the finches, etc.
i miss scout. what kind of man did jem become? what’s going on with the radleys? what is atticus like as an old man – possibly a grandpa? and what about calpurnia? i can already feel the nourishment of spending time with those folks again.
i am less afraid about this book because to kill a mockingbird is a prequel rather than go set a watchman being a sequel. the story arc started with these characters in GSAW included the events in TKAM. in education that’s called backwards design, start at the end and design from there. and i’m a big fan of backwards design, which makes me less worried about the quality than i would be if harper lee came at this from the other direction.
TKAM back in the spotlight
as part of a project i did with my 4th grade students a decade ago, i wrote harper lee a letter. i knew that she wouldn’t answer, but on the chance that she might read my letter, i wrote it anyway. i said thanks for putting into the world something that made it a better place. that i’m a better person for what i’ve learned about kindness and morality and empathy and courage from her book. so maybe this new book will inspire a few people to pick up TKAM for the first time.
or to watch the movie, which is one of the only times you’ll hear me say that. harper lee was very involved in the movie – the courthouse is an exact replica of the one in monroeville, alabama (her hometown). when gregory peck won an oscar for playing atticus, a character based on harper lee’s dad, he had her father’s pocket watch in his pocket, a gift from lee.
pulling a nicolas cage
nicolas cage was so damn good in raising arizona, and i wish he’d gone out on top and never made another movie. he’d just hang out, naming his kids after superman characters and being cool. but what about leaving las vegas? speaking of cool, how about tom hanks as ben sanderson? and i love moonstruck and con air as much as the next guy, but they just aren’t worth it. will go set a watchman be harper lee’s 8MM?
i’ll admit that i’ve always loved the lee legend – young woman (34 when TKAM was published) writes the great american novel, lives to a ripe old age and never publishes another book. the literary equivalent of the “i am outta here” table flip. but now there’s another book, and the reclusive lee is back in the spotlight.
more truman capote intrigue
dill in TKAM is based on truman capote, harper lee’s childhood neighbor. how involved was lee in writing capote’s in cold blood? was capote the real author of to kill a mockingbird? get ready for more speculation diminishing lee as an author. a young woman can’t write the great american novel and then slide back out of the spotlight and enjoy her life in rural alabama? table flip.
i mean no disrespect, but harper lee is 88. she isn’t going to be around much longer. so why publish the novel now? in 2011 a friend quoted her reasons for not writing another book: “one, i wouldn’t go through the pressure and publicity i went through with to kill a mockingbird for any amount of money. second, i have said what i wanted to say and i will not say it again.” say what? it would be more keeping with the lee lore if this “long lost” companion to TKAM was discovered after her death and published posthumously. is she broke? being blackmailed? is there some kind of elder abuse going on? she had a stoke in 2007 and lives in an assisted living facility. how involved is she?
my 2 favorite books are to kill a mockingbird and lafcadio: the lion who shot back by shel silverstein. these books made lifelong impacts on me and my development as a person. one thing i love about lafcadio is the end – you don’t know what happens to him. there isn’t lafcadio part two: return to the jungle. i would hate it if silverstein had ever written that book. gilda radner called it “delicious ambiguity.” The new york times article quotes harpercollins president michael morrison – “i, along with millions of others around the world, always wished that harper lee had written another book.” i’m not one of those millions. i don’t need to know what kind of adult scout became. i miss her like i miss an old friend who moved away and fell out of touch – i wish her well and am grateful to have known her. meeting her was a transformational thing in my life. as was meeting lafcadio.
when it was announced that there would be a 4th season of arrested development, i couched my fears by saying things like, “they wouldn’t risk making another season if it wasn’t going to be awesome.” and when i watched it, eh. it wasn’t awful and it was good to see those folks again, but i won’t ever choose to watch an episode from that season over the first 3 seasons. i didn’t hate it. it didn’t damage the credibility of the people involved, but it would have been ok, possibly better, if it didn’t exist.
i hope not to be saying that after i read go set a watchman.
those are my thoughts. i’m curious to hear yours if you’re thinking about this.